Studying in the UK
The United Kingdom (UK) includes Northern Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. It has long been the main University destination for Irish students opting to study abroad. UNESCO’s latest figures show that over 10,000 Irish citizens were studying in the UK in 2016.
Over 400,000 students from 200 countries go to the UK every year to attend higher education (that is more than 15% of the total student population in the UK, so if you decide to go, you will most likely not be the only student in your course to have just moved to the UK!)
- Northern Ireland is an attractive option to many Irish citizens as it is so easily accessible. For example, the University of Ulster is bigger than any university in the south, with a number of campuses spread out across Ulster, and the Open University (Distance learning, online courses) is also based in Northern Ireland but does not require you to live in Northern Ireland.
- Scotland is particularly attractive for Irish students as there are no tuition fees for undergraduate courses.
- England is home to a number of the highest ranking, and most prestigious, universities in the world such as University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and University College London.
- Wales has 8 universities, where tuition fees and the cost of living generally are lower, and the quality of life higher, compared to England for example. Cardiff is ranked as the most affordable University City in the UK in 2019.
As Irish students have been choosing to study in the UK in high numbers for some time, many Irish school guidance counsellors are familiar with their application system, UCAS, and will be able to give good advice on the process of applying to universities in the UK. Students and adults wanting to do their own research will also find the UCAS website very informative as it covers most aspects of studying in the UK.
Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the EU) is likely to have implications for students wanting to study in the UK, but it remains to be seen exactly what those implications will be. SUSI (the Irish student financing body) [www.susi.ie] provide up-to-date information about funding decisions related to Brexit.
If you want to compare UK qualifications with Irish qualifications, see the ‘Qualifications can cross boundaries’ leaflet from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) that gives a rough guide to comparing qualifications in the UK and in Ireland. The leaflet shows how qualifications are organised and how they relate broadly to each other through the different qualifications frameworks, including the European Qualifications Framework.